Monday, January 7, 2013

Poetry Unit

Spring semester (ish): The time when we start anew and work on entirely new topics.

During the fall, we worked primarily on handwriting skills.  M1 finished the Handwriting Without Tears series and is now doing some of his work in cursive, because his handwriting is infinitely neater and easier to read that way.  M2 developed her print skills; though her writing is tiny, it's in neat, straight lines and isn't all over the place.  I, for one, am thankful for all these improvements.

However, rather than continue with the next HWT book, we're stopping and switching gears between now and May.  Over the next few months, we're going to talk about poetry, literature, research, how to express an opinion in writing, etc.

We're starting with poetry.

A couple years ago, I purchased a series of five books from Scholastic called "Poetry for Young People."  It contained books with selected works from Carl Sandburg, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and Robert Frost.  The kids have used the books a few times, but we've never really done a poetry study, per se; we've just read poems and enjoyed them for their worth.

And I'm okay with that.  Both of them love poetry way more than I ever did as a child, and I don't want to squash that.  Occasionally, though, they want to write poetry.  Sometimes they do well and sometimes they don't, and when they don't it's painfully clear that the idea of poetry is a little vague in their minds.

So we're going to sit down and talk about it all.  Today we started with the simple questions: What is poetry?  What is verse?  What is prose?  The kids were a little freaked out when I stood in front of them and wrote stuff on the whiteboard because they've never experienced any sort of lecture format before, but they really enjoyed the talk.  They came up with a bunch of poetic keywords - song, rhythm, tell a story, verse, rhyme, etc.  Then M1 looked up the definition of prose and we talked about the difference. 

Over the next two weeks, here is my plan to help them stretch their poetic minds:

Tuesday - Discuss rhymes and write couplets and clap out poetry rhythms.  I'm going to use "I Dream a World" by Langston Hughes and "My River Runs to Thee" by Emily Dickinson to illustrate the point. 

Wednesday - Talk about poem titles.  Discuss how Emily Dickinson didn't use them and the effect it has on a reader.  I'm going to use some of her riddle poems to show how not using a title makes you think a little harder about what the poem is about.  I may let the kids write a riddle poem (M1 is dying to write a riddle limerick) just for fun.

Thursday - Haiku.  We'll discuss the history of haiku, the incorporation of nature elements and some of the ways to write them, then write a few together.  This will reinforce the idea of syllables in poetry.

Friday (no writing on Friday around here)

Monday - Introduce alliteration and repeated lines in poetry (using "Hey!" and "Hey! Hey!" by Langston Hughes and some Poe works) and how these things work inside poems.

Tuesday - Talk about rhythm (introduce the idea of meter/feet for M1) and how it can make a poem easier to read.  I may or may not break out some Shakespearean sonnets.

Wednesday - Discuss narrative poems (Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg) and free verse.

Thursday - Compare/contrast poems about fall ("October Paint" by Carl Sandburg, "October" by Robert Frost, and "The morns are meeker than they were" by Emily Dickinson) to show there are many ways to paint a picture with poems.

Obviously we're not digging too deep here.  I only hope to enhance their understanding of poetry, not cause it to be drudgery.  Fingers crossed that it goes well!


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a great plan to me! I love to mix "fun" poetry, like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, with classic poetry. It definitely helps add some variety.

But I never thought to cover topics like this, so I'm going to take some inspiration from you and give this a try too! Thank you for posting this.

rowan said...

It sounds great!! Good luck!

Sarah said...

Yeah, M2 loves to check out Shel Silverstein books from the library, and I'm going to encourage the kids to pick out a poetry book each this week, but if they don't, it's no biggie. I'd incorporate more 'fun' poetry in if we had the books, but we just don't, and I want to work with what we have. I did print off some extra riddle poems and stuff off the Internet, but a lot of the fun poems are copyright-protected, and I don't like to pirate. :)